LIMA — Lima Locos coach Jared Gaynor was looking for a little lightning from the bottom of the order.
So he didn’t use a pinch-hitter and turned them loose.
It was the bottom of the lineup Thursday night that delivered for the Locos in a four-run seventh inning to power the Locos to a 4-2 victory over Muskegonat Simmons Field.
It was No. 8 hitter Nathan Fancher (East Georgia State) and No. 9 hitter Justin Wiley (Alabama-Birmingham) who led the late charge.
“The bottom of the order really came through at the end of the game tonight and I was happy to be part of it,” Fancher said.
The Locos, who stand atop the Northern Division, are 11-5. Muskegon is 9-9.
The Locos trailed 1-0 entering the home seventh, but came up with four in the home seventh.
Judd Ward put down a bunt single to start the seventh. Christian Waltman walked and Jess Davis walked to load the bases.
Ward came home on a wild pitch to tie the game at 1.
Nathan Fancher lined an RBI single to left to give the Locos a 2-1 lead. Originally, Fancher was asked to bunt, but when the count went 3-1, he was turned loose.
“I’m in a little bit of a slump right now and they were going to bunt me to squeeze him in,” Fancher said. “But he threw me three straight balls and coach gave me the green light. I’m happy he did because I got an RBI single.’’
Justin Wiley’s bunt single brought in a run and made it 3-1.
Added Gaynor, “None (of the bottom of the order) had really done much early in the game and I had considered having a pinch-hitter come in for someone toward the bottom, but I kept with them. I had a good gut feeling and they were able to get the job done.’’
Fancher came home from third on a wild pitch and it was 4-1 in the seventh.
Locos lefty A.G. Ayala (Texas A&M/Corpus Christi) got the start, while right-hander Jacob Kieffer (Alcorn State) started for the Clippers.
Both were in total command with their fastball and off-speed pitch through the first six innings in a 0-0 tie.
Muskegon finally broke through with a run in the seventh.
Muskegon’s James Roche led off with a single. Ryan Blake-Jones then doubled off the left-field fence.
With no outs, Roche tried to score from first on the double and was thrown out left field (Judd Ward) to shortstop (Tyler Simon) to catcher Daniel Seres, who easily slapped on the tag on Roche, who didn’t even slide.
“That was a perfect relay,” Gaynor said. “Judd picked it up, didn’t take any time to throw it and Tyler made a great throw to home.’’
Ayala then walked Blake Dunn and Nolan Bryant to load the bases.
Blake-Jones scored from third on a passed ball to give the Clippers a 1-0 lead.
When Ayala walked Tyler Carpenter to re-load the bases, his day was over.
Locos right-hander Jordan Marks came on with the bags loaded and two out and struck out Micah Allen to end the inning.
“That was a game-changer,” Gaynor said of the strikeout.
Marks tossed 1 1/3 shutout, two-hit innings for the win.
Devin Smith got the save.
Ayala went 6 2/3 innings and gave up one run, earned, on five hits. He struck out six and walked three. Ayala threw 88 pitches, 54 for strikes.
“It was fastball, change and curve,” Ayala said. “But I had three straight walks, but Jordan came in and closed it out for me (in the seventh).’’
Locos notes: The Locos wrap up their two-game home series with Muskegon at 7 p.m. tonight at Simmons Field.
Locos right-hander Trent Vietmeier (LSU) was named the GLCL pitcher of the week. Against Galion, he went five innings and gave up one unearned run on four hits. He struck out 10 and walked none.
Locos outfielder/infielder Jaxon Shirley announced he’s headed to Oklahoma next year. Shirley, from Anderson, Ind., played at Danville Area C.C. this year.
Locos lefty Tanner Hall (Mercer) ranks fourth in the league in ERA (1.50) after his nine shutout innings in a 1-0, 10-inning win at Licking County on Tuesday. … Tyler Miller (Texas A&M/Corpus Christi) is 10th in ERA at 2.63.
Locos pitcher Mitch Ebben (UNOH) has left the team for the summer and has gone back to his home in Wisconsin. He’s playing in the Northwoods League now. … Pitcher Josh Farmer (Mercer) has also left the team.
Pitcher Troy Cordrey (Alabama-Birmingham) joined the team Thursday.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.